Noisy PGA Tour Leaderboards Thing of the Past
He didn't know many of the courses. He wasn't sure where to stay. And inside the ropes, he had to adjust to this strange sound he never heard on any other golf circuit.
'People talk about how they don't pay attention to leaderboards? They're lying,' Howell once said. 'Because when these leaderboards turn over out here, it sounds like machine gun fire. If you have a leaderboard right beside you, you're ducking your first year on tour, because you have no idea what that noise is.'
Anyone who has ever been to a PGA Tour event knows exactly what Howell is talking about.
While the tour is equipped with satellite technology and lasers to chart every shot of every player, it keeps score on the golf course with electronic leaderboards that are about as up-to-date as Pac-Man.
'When you're hitting a shot, you hear that rat-tat-tat,' Mark Lye said. 'Those things have always been the worst.'
They might be a thing of the past - finally.
First introduced on the PGA Tour at the 1988 Westchester Classic, the tour plans to replace the leaderboards with state-of-the-art equipment that not only will tell who is leading, but show how far someone hits his drive or the distance his ball lands from the pin.
And players will only be able to see them, not hear them.
'Think of it more as a computer monitor than what you're seeing out there today,' said Steve Evans, vice president of information systems for the PGA Tour.
What the tour has now is a large board, powered by a golf cart battery. The board has 5,130 cubes that are black and fluorescent yellow, and those cubes flip over to spell out names and scores and what hole a player is on.
The board changes every 10 seconds or so.
'It's not a normal sound,' said Lye, who battled the boards as much as any player on tour. 'I would unplug them and shut down the whole system. They told me they were going to fine me if I kept doing it, so I had to stop. But it got to where I had to time when it was going to change so it didn't get me in the middle of my stroke.'
When he joined the Champions Tour, that annoying, teeth-gritting sound was there to greet him.
'We can talk from here to China on a cell phone,' said Lye, who works as an analyst for The Golf Channel. 'We ought to be able to get a scoreboard that's not so loud.'
Noise isn't the only problem.
Depending on the radio frequency, the scoreboards could be as many as 30 minutes behind. That could make a big difference to a player wondering if he needs to go for the green on a par 5 late in the tournament.
And just like any piece of machinery, it can malfunction. There are times when not all the cubes will switch to yellow, making the scores look like something they're not.
Bob Estes was tied for the lead with Jeff Maggert in the 1995 Western Open, both of them at 8-under par. But Estes says a couple of yellow cubes didn't flip over on Maggert's score, and a quick glance made it look like Maggert was 9 under.
'I should have known what a 9 normally looks like on a scoreboard,' Estes said. 'But the pixel lights were out. I thought I was tied for the lead and I had to play a little more aggressively, maybe get a birdie on the last three holes.'
He went at the pin, bounced left off the green and into a hazard to take double bogey.
'They really are annoying,' Estes said.
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said plans to update the electronic scoreboard were shelved temporarily when money was devoted to the Shotlink scoring system.
He said the tour likely would start testing new boards over the next two years, and his hope is that new boards will be available for the 2007 season. The idea is to link the leaderboard in part with Shotlink, ultimately giving fans all the information available to them on the Internet.
'The goal is to develop the best fan enhancement,' Hughes said.
There already has been some evidence, however so slight. At the Tour Championship last year, a mammoth screen erected down the 17th fairway showed clear, still images of the two players walking toward the green, their score and what place they were in.
Even the noisy boards now are capable of showing which player has hit the longest drive at a hole, or which was closest to the pin on a par 3.
Still, the tour has been slow to replace such outdated equipment.
'The budget was one factor, but the other thing was that technology was moving so fast, you didn't want to buy something one year and have it be outdated the next year,' said Don Wallace, director of tournament operations. 'And for what we do - in terms of transporting them to tournaments - this technology was good. It lasted almost 20 years.'
No matter the age or how loud the boards can be, the PGA Tour at least gives fans up-to-date information.
The tour now has to be careful not to deliver too much information.
Evans said a new leaderboard would be capable of delivering the same information as Shotlink, along with video clips of someone making a key birdie. But the PGA Tour doesn't want a course like Riviera to turn into a movie theater, either.
'It will have a much more higher resolution display, much more like boards you'd see in the stadium,' Evans said. 'It will be capable of showing full graphics, player images, head shots. We're probably going to have some be video capable, but I don't think video is appropriate at every single location.'
The last thing someone needs is to be standing over a 6-foot par putt and hear the crowd erupt in cheers because it watched highlights of Phil Mickelson chipping in for birdie. Still, modern boards will be capable of letting fans know what's going on with more names, more glitz, more information.
'And it will be real quiet,' Wallace said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.
With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.